Thirteen people -- among them two alleged rapists and an alleged robber -- were freed when a magistrate refused to work after 4pm, News24 reported on Wednesday.
It said Kimberley Magistrate K Padayachee scrapped 13 cases off the court roll on Monday and allowed the accused in custody to go free.
Padayachee ruled that the 13 alleged criminals be freed when they hadn't appeared before her in court by 4pm -- a transit court for first court appearances.
An alleged rapist, sought since 2000, was apparently one of those who walked free.
The others included a man accused of raping a 16-year-old girl, alleged stock thieves, an alleged robber and men accused of breaking into houses and cars.
The regional head of the Northern Cape justice department, Rodney Isaacs, confirmed on Tuesday he had heard of the incident.
"I'm aware of the cases scrapped from the roll. It is seen in a very serious light," he said.
"The matter has been reported to the senior prosecutor and the director of public prosecutions. It definitely also will be reported to the magistrates' commission."
A court source said Padayachee's roll had been full and she had to handle two rolls on Monday.